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Comelec sees passage of law ‘more effective’ in preventing vote-buying

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Comelec sees passage of law âmore effectiveâ in preventing vote-buying
This file photo shows the Commission on Elections headquarters in Manila.
Philstar.com / AJ Bolando, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections “fully supports” a bill that makes vote-buying a “heinous crime” and penalizes offenders with imprisonment on top of a hefty fine.

Rep. Anthony Golez Jr. (Malasakit at Bayanihan party-list) filed House Bill No. 1709 or the “Vote-Buying is a Heinous Crime Act” that punishes political parties, organizations, and other agents for giving and offering money “or anything of value,” including employment, in exchange fo a vote.

Under the proposed bill, a political party, organization, or any other agent convited of vote-buying may face at least 12 to up to 40 years behind bars, stretching it from the current one to six years under Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code. They may also be fined for at least P3 million.

Any convicted individual will also be prohibited from being a part of a political party or a party-list seeking accreditation from the Comelec and/or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The proposed bill seeks to punish anyone who sells their votes in exchange for money and/or employment, putting a penalty fee of not less than P100,000 and imprisonment of one to six years.

Any person or individual convicted — either for buying and selling their votes — will be forever disqualified from holding public office. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said he believes the passage of the law “will be more effective” in preventing vote-buying and vote-selling during elections season. 

He also encouraged lawmakers to amend the Omnibus Election Code to include as an offense those who conduct their transaction through over-the-air fund-transfers, internet cash transfers, and other digital means. 

Vote-buying, which has always been a problem in Philippine politics, have also turned digital — with agents and political actors preferring to transact online 

“Said re-definition will likewise pave the way for the conduct of better criminal investigation and case build-up, culminating to a more effective and efficient prosecution,” the poll body said. 

READ: BSP tells banks to clamp down on digital vote buying, selling 

During the campaign period leading up to the 2022 national elections, the Comelec put up an inter-agency task force in an attempt to curb vote-buying.

The task force included members from the Department of Justice, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Information Agency, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, and Armed Forces of the Philippines. 

By end-May, the poll body said it was investigating nearly a thousand reported cases of vote-buying.

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